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Men convicted in protests in N.C. capital say they will do it again

RALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Two men convicted of misdemeanors for protesting in the North Carolina Legislative Building say they plan to go back and do it again.

The Rev. William Barber and Bob Zellner, a former field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, were among more than 900 protesters arrested in the "Moral Monday" demonstrations earlier this year at the building where the state Legislature meets, the (Raleigh) News & Observer reported Wednesday.

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They and others tried in the past week were convicted of violating a state Legislative Building rule and second-degree trespass. All of them immediately appealed their convictions.

Speaking after the trial, Barber said the protesters "have been convicted for our convictions."

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"We may be convicted for our convictions, but our convictions stand," he said. "So what are we going to do? We're going to go back and mobilize and continue to mobilize."

The "Moral Monday" protests drew thousands of people to the capital from April through August with grievances against a range of proposed changes by the Legislature, including public school job cuts, voter ID laws and tax reforms they said favored the rich while cutting benefits to the poor.

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Defense attorneys argued the men had been wrongly charged, and they were exercising their free speech rights and the right petition lawmakers.

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Joy Hamilton, a former district judge appointed to preside over the cases, dismissed some charges because the legislative building rules are unconstitutionally board.

However, she found a rule "governing visitors" on the second floor of the building was specific enough to warrant convicting Barber, Zellner and 10 other defendants

She had already thrown out charges accusing the 12 of failing to disperse on command because the men had not been violent.

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